Archive | August, 2010

Ralph Nader speaks out in Buffalo and Endorses Mike Kuzma & Howie Hawkins!

5 Aug

Last night Green Gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins, insurgent Democratic State Senate candidate Mike Kuzma, and former Presidential Candidate and Consumer activist Ralph Nader stood side by side at Dnipro Ukrainian Center on Buffalo’s east side. Their message for Buffalo was: be defiant, reclaim your vote, and there is no choice in a two-party monopoly between two neoliberal capitalist parties. One key difference between them and the Democrats and Republicans is the issue of the “Stock Transfer Tax”.

The state of New York, that is in over $90 billion in deficit is expected to cut thousands of public sector jobs and slash everything on the budget, many things that New Yorkers depend on to get by every single day; yet the Stock Transfer Tax that would add and estimated $16 billion dollars that Wall Street is given tax-free through a 100% rebate cumulatively every year, goes unmentioned.

The local Green Party chairman, Eric Jones, introduced the speakers and pushed the petitioning effort for the NYS Green Party’s Gubernatorial run. Succeeding Eric was Mike Kuzma , who was described by Eric as the “Ralph Nader of Buffalo”. Mike is a local lawyer and activist who is often known for challenging city hall for their corporate puppetry. As more NYS national guard soldiers are sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to protect our colonial holdings Mr. Kuzma, unlike State Sen. Stachowski demands that the NYS national guard is brought home immediately. Senator Stachowski, the incumbent has not raised the issue.

The Stock Transfer Tax was one of the main points of the entire panel. To clarify, the tax would only affect the super-rich, particularly the multitude of stock trading & derivatives that are traded every second on Wall St. The gentry’s favorite, Andrew Cuomo won’t touch it precisely because this tax would touch the instant casino transactions on Wall Street that make a hedge fund managers millions annually. In fact, according to their press release Cuomo’s average campaign donation is $2666, and more than 130 of his donors have given in excess of $37,000 and about 544 have given over $10,000 to his campaign. At this point, Andy Cuomo may as well have a top hat, a monocle, and the deed to a Buffalonian’s house burning to light his cigar.

Alas, this is the nature of politics in the U.S. and particularly in New York State. The slate presented to Buffalo’s activist community on Monday night represents a clear break from that system. Kuzma, Hawkins, and Nader also endorsed a Green New Deal which included progressive taxation, a robust public works program, and the creation of “employment insurance”.

Employment insurance would take the form of a subsidy to the unemployed as they are offered a new job after their unemployment. The substitute employment would be in a robust public works program that would- particularly for Buffalo- aim at creating secure jobs with living wages, while reviving some of our crumbling edifices. State and local infrastructure and other sites, such as the Central Terminal would be main projects of this program.

Howie Hawkins, the “Green Hornet of Justice”,  is a community activist, bookstore owner, author, UPS teamster, and a Green Party leader from Syracuse, NY (for more information on Howie go here- insert campaign website link). Mr. Hawkins pushed the aforementioned Green New Deal as an alternative to the plan Andrew Cuomo proposes in a statement from the New York Times. According to Mr. Hawkins, the ballot line is not just a ploy for the governor’s mansion in Albany but it is also to a platform to push key issues that the Green Party stands for.

New York State has one of the most unequal income gaps in the developed world, as Mr. Hawkins stated and Mr. Nader reiterated: “the janitor in Trump Towers pays a greater share of his income in state and local taxes than Trump does”. In NYS tax code, according to Mr. Hawkins the tax is flat after the 40th percentile of earners.

Finally, the night ended as it began with the 78 year old ‘unreasonable man’, Ralph Nader, making a speech that galvanized the crowd and aroused the imaginations of the activists of the Queen city. As a consumer advocate Ralph Nader brought the same intense fire to Dnipro that burned major corporations such as the now revitalized receivership of General Motors. Mr. Nader stated that “there’s a lot of personal freedom in dictatorships…there’s personal freedom but, not civic freedom”! When we settle for the least worst we give up our right to exercise democracy, in really the most nominal way- elections. As Mr. Nader called it, we are in “civic slavery”, per the difference with legal slavery and the very material experience of human trafficking today or U.S. chattel slavery in the past; civic slavery entails the subjugation of the public’s political will by an autocratic few, against the will of a class of people, while simultaneously exploiting them. In other words, civic slavery takes place every couple years in September and November.

One felt empowered but, for those of us that gave into civic slavery it was a critical admonishment as he asked, “where is our self-respect”? That is a good question; as we critically analyze ourselves we find that we can all agree that the system is rotten but, we are “cowards, indentured slaves, and serfs” as Mr. Nader said, if we do not back our cynicism up with action. As he wrapped up, Mr. Nader re-told the story of an eighteenth century protest in Connecticut that brought the grievances of farmers to King George III’ attention and got them addressed; this protest preceded, and added to the energy for the later American Revolution. Mr. Nader was proposing reforms but, he is calling for a general revolt.

As we stomped in the hall, clapped, and raised our hands to the sky we exorcised one or two demons of timidity. If one walked into the speech, as it was taking place, one may think that they were walking into a baptist church service! This was the invigoration of leftists and activists in a city that is still the second poorest, one of the most segregated, and marginalized cities in the country; in addition to being in a highly politically corrupt state.

It is extremely clear that in 2010 we have the chance to make a difference; beyond the electoral spectacle, we have a key choice to make- should “we live on our knees” or “die on our feet”? Andrew Cuomo and the Democrats have a strangle hold on Buffalo and New York state that can only be challenged by a third party and in the electoral arena, the more votes they get the better off we’ll be. Outside of electoral politics, we have to create a robust peoples’ movement because as Ralph expressed whether you’re a conservative or liberal, the corporate conquest of everyday life is a threat to everyone. It is disgustingly clear that the Republican and Democratic parties and their fronts’ (Conservative & Working Familes, respectively) are the vanguard of corporate conquest.

So ask yourself, “People die, families break up, for who? For a criminal gang in Washington” (Ralph Nader, 8/3/10 in Buffalo)!